This article includes topics of sexual assault and human trafficking that some readers may find upsetting.
California Governor Gavin Newsom has pardoned Sara Kruzan, who was found guilty of murder as a juvenile for killing a man who sexually assaulted and sold her. Kruzan was 16 years old when she fatally shot George Gilbert Howard in a hotel room in Riverside, California in 1994. The next year, she was accused of first-degree killing and sentenced to life in prison. She claimed throughout her trial that Howard had sexually molested her and trafficked her for prostitution since she was 13 years old.
Kruzan was punished with a four-year consecutive firearm enhancement. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger shortened her sentence to 25 years in prison with the prospect of release in 2010. The conviction stayed when she was paroled and freed from jail in 2013 by then-Gov. Jerry Brown.
Kruzan was resentenced in 2013 to 15 years to life in prison for second-degree murder, with a four-year firearm enhancement, for a total term of 19 years to life. Kruzan was freed from jail after spending 18 years. According to Newsom’s pardon, “Ms. Kruzan committed a crime that resulted in the victim’s death.” Ms. Kruzan has now reformed her life and devoted herself to community service.
This mercy for Ms. Kruzan does not diminish or condone her actions or the damage they inflicted. It does acknowledge the work she has done to alter herself since then. This act of clemency for Ms. Kruzan does not reduce or excuse her behaviour or the harm it caused,” he continued. It does acknowledge the work she has done to alter herself since then.”
As per a news release from Newsom’s office governor’s pardon does not overturn a sentence, but it helps alleviate some of the consequences of a criminal conviction. Despite the pardon, Kruzan remains a convicted felon in California. Kruzan’s legal team has formally asked that the Riverside County district attorney’s office reexamine the case and seek a reversal of her sentence. If the sentence is reversed, Kruzan will no longer have a criminal record. The governor granted 17 pardons, 15 commutations, and one medical reprieve on July 1.
Since taking office in January 2019, Newsom has awarded 129 pardons, 123 commutations, and 35 reprieves, as per the statement. Kruzan described her feelings of relief when she learnt of the governor’s decision. In an interview, she described the experience as letting these invisible chains that She didn’t realise were still taloned in her. Her case, she thinks, will “have a rippling effect for others who relate with different components of what she experienced.”
She went on to say that the system fails to recognise “complicated and compounded trauma, and it’s not just her situation, since anybody who has any direct contact with the system has been influenced by trauma.” She continued asking whether she wants to move on with love? Does she want to go forth in dread, rage, and pain?
Presently she wants to go forward in my love life. And it takes a lot of guts to do so. Earlier this year, she published her book, I Cried to Dream Again. Lenore Anderson, founder of Californians for Safety and Justice, applauded the pardon. “Sara is one of many thousands of exploited children, sexually and commercially, who find themselves in the defendant’s seat when it’s more than evident that the horrific abuse they were enduring was what was beneath the crime,” she added.